Aside from Halloween, I don’t typically take my kids around town after dark. When the sun sets, my wife and I are usually busy trying out different ways of keeping our two boys in bed, short of tying them down or sitting on them. Lately, however, the boys and I have been breaking the rules every Thursday night by venturing out after dark to attend a secret gathering. This is the one night of the week that my wife works late, so Ethan, Jonah, and I are left on our own for a boys’ night. So we end up at the library – I know, how rebelliously nerdy of us.
But we have a good reason for going there because the Dresden branch of the Chatham-Kent Public Library hosts Twilight Tales story time every Thursday. In the charming little building where the Dresden branch resides, a group of children gathers each week around Jenn Wallace, a library staff member surrounded by stacks of books and baskets of tambourines, bells, and rhythm sticks. Participating in a rousing half-hour of singing, instrument playing, dancing, role playing, and storytelling has become our Thursday night ritual. I often take the boys to literary and library events, but the timing of this one could make it appear as if I’m copping out of putting them to bed. But routines are good for bedtime, and there are advantages to attending Twilight Tales for a dad on his own one night a week.
It helps that the children are encouraged to wear pyjamas to Twilight Tales. Every other night when I say, “It’s time to get pyjamas on” I am subject to a range of results that only end in success after a string of failed attempts. On the worst of nights when everything I say falls on deaf ears, I find myself imitating a hunter trying to capture a small woodland creature with a trap. I am poised with the neck hole of a shirt positioned just right to spring it over a bobbing, ever-moving head, hoping to snare it with the first lunge. By some miracle, if it does work, I wrestle with flailing arms to get them through the shirt’s armholes. After ten minutes of that, I can move on to the even harder job of the pants.
Getting on pyjamas is a far quicker process on Thursdays. When I say, “It’s time to get pyjamas on or we’ll be late for library story time,” there is an instant reaction and they do everything themselves. Go figure. It never works that way when I say that I am reading books before bed. There is some mysterious attraction to the library and part of it has to do with the compelling way that Jenn delivers her stories and keeps them entertained with songs they enjoy acting out.
Which brings me to another advantage of Twilight Tales – someone else is doing the work of reading for me. As much as I like Green Eggs and Ham, my brain has gone a bit numb after reading it thousands of times. Jenn is great with the kids, great at engaging them, and great at selecting books that are not the normal books we read at home. My boys really like hearing new stories, and with someone else reading they are less inclined to interrupt every five seconds to ask questions that I don’t have answers for, like “How does that guy make the eggs green?”
You know the stories are good when they have a lasting impression. One particular story has stuck with the boys and is frequently and inconveniently re-enacted in our master bedroom. The book is called Finn Throws a Fit, but Ethan misheard it and has been calling it Finn Throws a Fid. Easy enough misunderstanding, and Jonah has followed suit with the mispronunciation.
In the book, hurricanes and rainstorms are used as a metaphor for Finn’s “fit” which is an irrational outburst that results in things getting tossed around in typical tantrum fashion. Ethan and Jonah’s interpretation focuses on the aftermath of the storm and the definition of “fid” has become every blanket, pillow, and stuffed animal in the house combined into a giant, messy mountain. “Fid” has become a noun in their personal vocabulary, and a “fid” makes an appearance on our bed every few days. For the record, an astronomical amount of stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes have accumulated in the five years the boys have been part of our lives.
Going around town was never meant to be part of our bedtime routine, but I am well aware of the magic of a moving car on tired boys, even though I try not to use it too often. The library closes at eight o’clock and I try to leave close to that time. The twenty-five-minute drive home from the Dresden branch usually (but not always) lulls the boys to sleep. But then I still have to make the transition of two sleeping bundles from car to bed. When it works, it is a thing of beauty. And it gives me enough time to clean up the pile of “fid” so my wife and I can use our bed for sleeping that night.
Twilight Tales has become a fun and educational weekly outing for us, and it acts as a way to alleviate my bedtime duties a bit. If the boys are tucked snug in their beds when my wife gets home from work, then I have been successful at getting them to sleep single-handedly (which is not an easy task), even if it did involve the help of a library staff member and a car ride.